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The Compasses Public House Greenfield

The Compasses February 2011
The Compasses February 2011

The Compasses Public House: 44 High Street, Greenfield 

The Compasses stands on the south side of the High Street in Greenfield. This means that until 1984 it was in the civil parish of Pulloxhill; at that date it was transferred into the new civil parish of Flitton and Greenfield.

The earliest record of the establishment is an entry for James Burgess, beer retailer, in a directory of 1854. Until it became fully licensed on 1st March 1951 [PSA5/2] the Compasses was a beerhouse and so not named in directories which only named fully-licensed public houses.

The countywide licensing register of 1876 reveals that the building was owned by its licensee, James Burgess. By the time of the next countywide register of 1891 the owner was Baldock [Hertfordshire] brewer Morley & Company. The countywide register of 1901 states that the owner was Bedford brewer Charles Wells, which firm still owns the pub today. The register noted: "repair fairly good and clean"; the house had both front and back doors.

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. The valuer visiting the Compasses [DV1/C234/134-136] noted that landlord Henry Chaplin paid £25 rent per annum to Charles Wells.

The house comprised a saloon bar, a tap room, a kitchen, a scullery and three bedrooms. Outside lay weather-boarded and thatched barns ("neglect"), a weather-boarded and corrugated iron summer house ("gone"), a weather-boarded and corrugated iron shed, and a weather-boarded and slated urinal and earth closet. 

The valuer commented: "Confirmed takings say £1000 I think he perhaps overestimated takings". The landlord stated that takings were between £20 and £22 a week. Trade averaged an eighteen gallon barrel of mild peer week, one nine gallon barrel of bitter a fortnight and twelve dozen bottles of beer per week. The valuer noted two eighteen gallon barrels and one nine gallon barrel were tapped at the time of his visit, a full 36 gallons were untapped.

Also on the premises was a brick and tiled butcher's shop, a brick and tiled slaughterhouse, a brick and slate two bay trap house and a stable for two horses - "all well built". The landlord also leased 1.071 acres of grass "mostly docks and twitch".

At one time there were four licensed houses in Greenfield, all in the parish of Pulloxhill. At the time of writing [2011] the Compasses is the last still of these still open as a public house.


  • PSA5/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1927;
  • GK165/4: conveyance of her husband's brewer company from Margaret Steed to William Pickering: 1889;
  • SFM4/17: sale catalogue: 1922;
  • WL800/1, page 38: photograph: c. 1925;
  • PSA5/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1934-1959;
  • PSA5/4: list of licensed premises in Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: c.1950
  • PSA5/5: list of licensed premises in Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1968-1995

Licensees: Note that this is not a complete list; italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known

1854-1880: James Burgess;
1880-1881: Martha Burgess;
1881-1885: George Olney;
1885-1891: George Odell;
1891-1895: John Clarke;
1895-1902: Renfrew Line;
1902-1903: Edward Green Gaunt;
1903-1921: Ezra Crawley;
1921-1922: John Moore;
1922-1923: Albert Ernest Hipperson;
1923-1937: Henry John Chaplin;
1937-1943: Thomas Charles Miller;
1943: Talbot Jarvis;
1943-1946: Joseph E. Cornhill;
1946-1948: William Reginald Barden;
1948-1949: George Samuel Robinson;
1949-1969: William Joseph Corkindale;
1969-1977: Alexander Fraser Dewar;
1977: Ruby Dewar;
1977-1981: Maurice Westwood Carter;
1981-1982: James John Devlin;
1982-1989: William Charles Dennis Pearson;
1989-1990: Richard George Dickins;
1990-1991: Spencer Edward Snape;
1991-1994: John Michael Sullivan;
1994-1995: David Paul Ames and Stephen Nash